More Disappointment – A Review of The Children Act

UnknownMr McEwan, you have let me down again.  Sometimes we get along so well.  Remember Saturday? Amsterdam? Atonement?  Then there was that On Chesil Beach… and now The Children Act. Another disappointment.

Your shorter novels simply don’t cut the mustard.  They lack depth.  Such great ideas are left unexplored. Why?  Did you run out of time?  Need the cash?  Lose a bet?  I just don’t understand….

Now that Mr McEwan has been mildly told off, let me get back to reviewing The Children Act.  There are – as usual – a few interesting elements to the story.  The main character is one of them.  Fiona Maye is a High Court Judge, bogged down by difficult family law cases.  She must make difficult decisions as to the best interest of children each and every day.  She is passionate – but is finding that her personal life is suffering. Her husband of many years wants to have an affair – with her consent. Awkward conversations ensue.  And like the intelligent woman that she is, Maye refuses to believe that this is the answer to her marital issues. So off goes the husband.

In the meantime, she encounters one of the more difficult legal conundrums of her career – a seventeen-year-old Jehovah’s Witness who is refusing a blood transfusion to treat his leukaemia.  Maye must rule if the boy is able to make this decision, fully understanding the consequences of it.  Does a seventeen-year-old really understand what it means to die for his faith?  Can he even decide if he really believes, or is he just echoing the sentiments of his parents?

Maye rules, and the decision has consequences she could not foresee. It’s interesting material, but all this is dealt with too quickly.  McEwan diminishes the emotional realities of the characters by not allowing them to fully explore and resolve their feelings.  But it bodes well that I wanted more right?


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